So Rush Limbaugh said something vile about someone. That’s apparently news, despite the fact that this is how he’s made his living for the last two decades. After all this time, Limbaugh’s behavior is finally costing him his major corporate sponsorships. Why now? Maybe because the regressive behavior of Republicans in office across the country is radicalizing the population in a way that wars and recessions couldn’t.
Or maybe it’s because this time Rush’s target is white (unlike the First Lady), fits our biases on “innocence” (unlike those who want access to birth control for sex), and as a Georgetown law student, exhibits the trappings of socioeconomic success (unlike many crusading for social and political justice).
Of course, it could just be that we were already watching and rooting for Sandra Fluke, so we were poised to move en masse when this happened. It could be the radicalization. It could be…something else.
I wish I could believe that was true, that we’re rising up against Limbaugh’s general behavior and not just because he dared to strike at an unacceptable victim. Sadly, the words of my fellow progressives give me altogether too much doubt on that score.
Rush Is Fat
I don’t know what could possibly be of less relevance to these events. Unless Limbaugh’s second chin (if he has one) has somehow figured out how to operate his mouth independent of his brain, there is not one reason to mention his weight in any discussion that doesn’t involve him commenting on food or obesity issues. Even then, it would only be relevant in so far as it demonstrated hypocrisy or, strange as the idea may be, expertise. And if you want to make the hypocrisy argument, you’d better be prepared to deal with a fair amount of evidence that weight is not an easily tractable issue.
Nonetheless, I cringed every time I saw Limbaugh’s name come up in social media, because all too often reasonable arguments about things he said would have the word “fat” dropped onto them as though it were some sort of seasoning. For the record, I’m not exactly skinny myself. Anyone who says “Rush is fat” as though it means something should probably stop reading me right now, as my arguments are clearly invalid.
Stay Classy, Rush
Oh, if me not being skinny isn’t enough for you, I should perhaps mention that I’m “trailer trash”. I’ve spent about a quarter of my life living in mobile homes. If you don’t have to think about that every time someone mentions that phrase, you’re not likely to understand why telling someone they’re not being “classy” is a problem. So I’ll explain–once.
Rush Limbaugh is not acting like a member of the lower socioeconomic classes. Believe it or not, most poor people don’t jump on their eponymous, three-hour radio program to tell someone who is threatening their political power that she’s a slut. Limbaugh is acting exactly like what he is, a whiny, entitled rich man who is lying because he doesn’t want to have to pay the price for having flaunted his power where people can see him and because he’s always gotten away with it up to this point. That’s the class he is. That’s the class he panders to. Suggesting he suddenly has something in common with the people he’s hurt for twenty-some years because you’ve suddenly noticed his bad behavior is just doing his job for him.
Rush Is an Addict
Did you know Limbaugh has possessed and probably used drugs illegally? Of course you did, but it must be mentioned again because…what he’s done to another human being is somehow worse if his pain management went awry?
Aside from his personal odiousness, Rush Limbaugh ought to be one of those people we talk about when we talk about drug addiction. How do we manage pain? How do we understand addiction in people who aren’t trying to escape their lives? How does wealth and personal resources affect the damage done by drugs, and how should that in turn affect the way we conceptualize addiction legally and socially? Limbaugh is a counter-case for many of our societal narratives of drug abuse, and we should spend some time talking about that.
However, his own drug use has no relevance to a discussion of preventive medicine and his attempts to make it unavailable. Suggesting that it does is an insult to drug addicts.
Who Is the Prostitute, Rush?
Whatever else you want to say about prostitution, it is labor. We do and don’t value it very highly. We value it highly enough to make it pay better than many kinds of labor. We value it poorly enough to hide it away and to deprive those who practice it of the protections that those following a legal trade are granted. Either way, it is an honest trade: sex for money.
What Limbaugh does, and particularly what he did to Fluke, are not honest. Lies and slurs are Limbaugh’s stock in trade and they have been for the entire run of his popularity. The lies he tells are not incidental to his popularity, either. He could not do what he does without them. Nor is there any indication that Limbaugh is selling anything out to trade in those lies. Honesty and kindness are our values, not his, and he has never given us a single indication otherwise. It costs him nothing to support the conservative politics that are his own.
I have an old friend who used to frequent prostitutes back in college. This friend had experienced repeated rape as a teenager. I can’t say that employing prostitutes helped my friend. It would take the benefit of a lot of hindsight to sort the pleasure from the shame and figure that out. I can say that my friend was in a very vulnerable position, and no prostitute did the kind of damage that Rush does on a regular basis. He doesn’t deserve to be called a prostitute either.
So enough with hauling out our own nasty little prejudices to try to tell each other why Limbaugh is bad. Isn’t it about damned time we just call him what he is–a selfish, lying, exploitive creep who makes his living by damaging our country and our democratic processes? Isn’t it enough to do that without having to turn ourselves into pale copies of him and suggest that maybe we agreed with him a little bit all along?
Thanks to Natalie for prompting me to finally write the rant that’s been on my mind for the last several days.